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David Michon, For Scale
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David Michon, For Scale

Recent launch For Scale is a broadsheet newspaper addition to the Substack newsletter of the same name from design writer/editor David Michon.

A former editor of Icon magazine and managing editor of Monocle, David now consults with brands on content, voice, and strategy. He launched For Scale in 2022 and describes the new print addition as ‘a reaction to the same-ness of mainstream décor magazines.’

He explain more as he shares his working week and influences.


What are you doing this morning?
Well, this Monday precisely I am enjoying the lifestyle of my in-laws, in Tuscany—but shall be making my way over to the Biblioteca Agorà in Lucca to work, gently. The espresso machine pumps out a macchiato for €0.45, and the Wi-Fi is decent. Breaks are taken to get coffee somewhere else other than the library, for €1.00, and that’s usually Buralli

Generally speaking, however, Mondays are spent trying to perk up at Canyon in Echo Park, observing an L.A. populace far cooler than me. (Caffeine fuels me, ‘creatively’, i.e. into consciousness.) It’s a very pleasant 12 minute stroll – it is rarely acknowledged just how lush Los Angeles actually is. Hot tip: I use the Merlin Bird ID app to make sense of the cacophonous birdsong.

On other occasions, I’ll ‘exercise’ (gently) at the Los Angeles Athletic Club, and then take a little steam, which is the only point in the day when I'm more than 1m from my phone.



Describe your work environment
Work, when not from Canyon, is at home. And, ‘desk’ is either: desk, sofa, dining table. The roving-ness of it means that my set-up is ultra minimal: laptop, Muji A5 lined notebook in grey, whatever black-ink pen is nearby.

But, there are many modes of work, not always formal—library research through to late night beer-drinking. All have different functions.

I moved to Los Angeles from London, where my flat overlooked Brownswood Rd, always rumbling with trucks. So, it’s very significant and deliberate that in L.A. we have a view of tons of trees and mountains, and that’s just about it.



Which magazine do you first remember?
Seventeen; my sister had a subscription. Then my first subscription was to Rolling Stone. So, I guess it was kind of a pop culture world for me.



Which magazine matters to you the most today?
An archive of Nest magazines. For Scale is very much a personal response to same-ness of mainstream décor magazines. Where old Nest magazines still feel bright, critical, and fresh, some brand new issues of mega-décor-mags today feel as if they are printed just to be archived on a shelf. They aren’t alive, they don’t seem to reflect any of the fun conversations I have with friends about décor—even friends who write for those very mega-magazines.



Describe For Scale in three words
Décor Think Tank.



For Scale started as a newsletter. Why add a print edition?
I’m a sucker for things that take a huge amount of effort for very little financial reward—but I also don’t believe For Scale is ‘just’ a Substack, so I wanted to show that it was more.



Talk us through the design strategy for print—it’s very specific, almost more spontaneous than the newsletter
I worked with Studio Lowrie, who are kind of the best. While so much graphic design is self-consciously tight and controlled and obsessively ‘just so’, Lowrie can also be intuitive and loose. That’s hard to find. And though they have obviously delivered some major work (like the best Sundance has ever looked, in 2020), they aren’t up their own asses. 10 out of 10.

Anyway, the form is also with purpose. I wanted For Scale in print also to be a reaction to the same-ness of mainstream décor magazines, which are so polite, so calm, so orderly. Instead, For Scale is cumbersome, disposable, and manic.

Of course on Substack there’s only so much formatting you can do (thankfully), and it’s just me doing it. So Lowrie was amazing at responding to the tone and format of the writing and making the pages feel just as Voice-y.


There are quite a few ads in the print publication, are these real?
They are all real! I wanted to standardize the ad format and write the copy myself, and it’s what has received the most positive response from readers. Since every single story was designed to look so different, I felt it’d be too chaotic if the ads were also all over the place. But they should shout too—I mean, it’s their cash that made the newspaper possible—so, I didn’t want them to be quiet.

All the advertisers come from the For Scale subscribership—so, they are genuine readers and supporters of the newsletter. I’m actually very proud of that. At first, I’d tried to target some random-ish big design brands I liked but who didn’t know the Substack, and it was such a ‘process’. A bunch of time, and it didn’t go anywhere.

Then, I just wrote about the ad space in a newsletter, and sold them all in a couple of days. And, I am way, way, way happier with it like this.



Highlight one story from the issue that sums up the magazine and its mission
I would say it is Glamor-Butch.

Part of the origin of For Scale is an observation of a new generation of secondhand dealers—people like Formas in Los Angeles or Oddeye in New York—who mix eras, and old and new, and things they’ve commissioned from their friends. And, it’s all just fun and whatever and hyper personal (taste-wise). It’s not formal like 1stDibs, but it’s just as educated. It’s not snobby, but it is thoughtful.

And, so For Scale publishes a lot of ‘aesthetic reviews’ that introduce some made-up category, provide evidence for its existence and relevance, and then review it. For me, it’s in the same spirit: a new way of contextualizing things.

But, it’s also for two other reasons:

1—Permissiveness. As in, it attempts to demonstrate that anything is ‘an aesthetic’ and is ‘relevant’ if you intellectualize it a little.

2—And, similarly, is the desire for us to learn to observe and ‘read’ décor (and take real ownership of our choices). There should not be a hierarchy of taste  – instead, making up these categories is a means to demonstrate that ANY “aesthetic” is defensible, and has something to say about human culture.

I only ever rip apart décor that is just status or wealth signalling sh*t – i.e. Architectural Digest home tours, or the Kardashians.


What advice do you have for anyone planning to launch a magazine?Godspeed.

But also: before you start, know that you have infinity ideas for stories. I.e. That there is more to say about [subject of magazine] than you could ever put into words. Because things fall apart so often that you want a million backups that aren’t a ‘Plan B’—when some story doesn’t work out you wanna think to yourself ‘Ok, well now we have space for [Insert fun idea]!’

What are you most looking forward to this coming week?
Heading to the countryside in Estonia for midsummer; not bringing my computer.


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For Scale #1

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